Marines appear in court in Army nurse's death
Posted July 15, 2008 6:00 a.m. EDT
Updated July 15, 2008 11:32 p.m. EDT
Fayetteville, N.C. — Two Camp Lejeune Marines made their first court appearances Tuesday in connection with the death of an Army nurse from Fort Bragg.
Marine Cpl. John Patrick Wimunc, 23, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 2nd Lt. Holley Lynn Wimunc and is being held without bond in the Cumberland County Detention Center. He also has been charged with first-degree arson and felony conspiracy.
Marine Lance Cpl. Kyle Ryan Alden, 22, who was assigned to the same engineer battalion at Camp Lejeune, is charged with first-degree arson, felony conspiracy and accessory after the fact of murder. Authorities said Alden, who also is being held without bond, helped dispose of evidence in Holley Wimunc's death and establish an alibi for John Wimunc.
Wimunc said his family has hired an attorney to represent him, while Alden requested court-appointed counsel. Both men are scheduled to appear in court again on Aug. 5.
"My client is presumed to be innocent. We have soldiers that are fighting across the world to preserve that right. We don't want this case tried in the media; we want it to be tried in the court of law," Wimunc's attorney, D.W. Bray, said after the brief hearing.
John Wimunc's parents attended the hearing but declined to comment afterward.
Cumberland County District Attorney Ed Grannis also declined to comment.
Holley Wimunc, 24, was assigned to Fort Bragg last August and worked as a nurse at Womack Army Medical Center.
She was last seen on the evening of July 8, and she was reported missing two days later when a co-worker went to her Fayetteville apartment because she didn't show up for work and found the remnants of a fire.
Crews fighting a brush fire near Sneads Ferry Sunday found charred human remains, and investigators said paraphernalia at the scene led them to believe the remains were those of Holley Wimunc.
A grave had been scooped about a foot deep into the ground in wooded area, and the body, which was in pieces, was dumped into it, Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown said. When the remains were set afire, it ignited the brush fire, which burned slowly for a couple of days before being extinguished Sunday, he said.
Although the remains haven't been positively identified, Holley Wimunc's father, Jesse James of Dubuque, Iowa, told WRAL Monday that authorities have told him his daughter was dead.
Investigators believe Holley Wimunc was killed in Fayetteville and her body was taken to Onslow County, said Chris Corcione, chief homicide investigator for the Fayetteville Police Department.
"One can only assume that (the apartment fire) was an attempt by (John) Wimunc to cover up any evidence that might have been left in the apartment," Corcione said.
Jeff Locklear, the Fayetteville homicide detective handling the case, said it didn't appear that Holley Wimunc was burned in the apartment.
A cause of death has not been determined, and Fayetteville Police Chief Tom Bergamine has declined to discuss a possible motive in the slaying.
Police said that interviews with Alden helped investigators put together what happened.
"We already had information, and in the interviews with him, we were able to corroborate that information," Locklear said.
Alden admitted he and John Wimunc were the men witnesses saw running from Holley Wimunc's apartment the night before she was reported missing, Locklear said.
Camp Lejeune response
The case marked the second time this year that a Camp Lejeune Marine has been charged with murder.
The charred remains of Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach were found in January behind the Jacksonville home of Cpl. Cesar Laurean. Lauterbach, who was eight months pregnant at the time, had been beaten to death.
Laurean was arrested in Mexico in April and is awaiting extradition to North Carolina to face a murder charge in Lauterbach's death.
Maj. Cliff Gilmore, spokesman for the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, said Tuesday that the base planned no changes in response to the charges against John Wimunc and Alden.
"Anytime there is an incident like this, we review all of our policies and procedures to determine if there is anything we can do differently or better," Gilmore said.
Rachel Pelletier, who lives near the Sneads Ferry site where the remains were found Sunday, is organizing a community support vigil and calling for changes at Camp Lejeune.
"I haven't heard that much from the military standpoint of things, and they should take notice of what's going on with their members," said Pelletier, whose husband is a Marine. "I don't feel the military is taking enough steps to possibly provide counseling for these men that obviously are having trouble."
Brown said that, while both slayings raise concern, people shouldn't rush to assume a problem exists with military members.
"We've got our share of domestics (cases) related to the military, but realize we have a lot of young military people here in Onslow County," he said.
Alden, who joined the Marines in May 2006 and was deployed to Iraq from April to November 2007, also was charged in April with assault on a female after Dawn Alden told authorities he hit her and twisted her arm.
"I think that people are outraged (by the cases) because it casts their community in such a bad light, and not only that, it cast the military in a bad light," Pelletier said.
John Wimunc joined the Marines in April 2005 and was deployed to Iraq from February to September 2006 and to a non-combat zone from last July to January.
Holley Wimunc also is the second Fort Bragg soldier to be slain in the past month. The body of Spc. Megan Touma was found in a Fayetteville motel room on June 21, and police have called the case a homicide.